Minority party trying to stitch up third front in Assam

October 20th, 2008 - 1:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Oct 20 (IANS) The Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF), a pro-minority party with the third highest number of seats in the 126-member state assembly, is trying to cobble up a third front against the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since its fragile links with the main opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) seem to have snapped.”We expected the AGP to take the lead in forging a united front against both the Congress and the BJP in Assam. But now that the AGP is talking of an electoral alliance with the BJP, we have decided to keep away from the regional party, and if necessary we shall face the coming Lok Sabha polls alone,” AUDF working president Hafiz Rashid Ahmed Choudhury told IANS.

Choudhury hinted that his party, which has 10 seats in the state assembly, next to the AGP’s 23, is working on the possibility of forging a third front to take on the Congress and the BJP in the state of 26 million people.

“We are in talks with the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and some other like minded parties to see if we can come together in this battle of principles,” Choudhury said.

Some state CPI-M leaders have dubbed the AUDF a ‘communal party’, a charge denied by Choudhury.

If the AUDF does manage to have a new formation, it would mean that the battle in Assam for Lok Sabha seats will see a triangular contest between the ruling Congress, the AGP-BJP combine, and the AUDF-led alliance.

The AUDF, led by perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal, had to distance itself from the AGP, with which it appeared keen to work together, after the regional party made it clear it was going to have some kind of a poll alliance with the BJP even if it is limited to seat sharing.

A strong lobby within the Congress wants the AUDF to have an alliance with the Congress in Assam so as to prevent a split in the Muslim vote bank. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is against an alliance but appears to have no problem should the AUDF decide to shed its identity and merge with the Congress.

Gogoi’s take is that all Muslims do not vote for the Congress and such votes are shared by parties like the AUDF and others. Even in the 2006 assembly polls, Gogoi is said to have rejected pleas by a section of Congressmen to have a tie-up with the AUDF.

The possible formation that must be worrying the Congress in Assam is the reported attempt by the Samajwadi Party, a constituent of the United Progressive Allaince (UPA) government at the centre, to forge an anti-BJP combine in the state. The problem will arise in case the Samajwadi Party decides to rope in the AUDF and Ajmal agrees to side with Amar Singh.

Things are hazy but the political arithmetic is hotting up, especially after the faction-ridden AGP, Assam’s main opposition party, got united last week.

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